Federal law would ban wine clubs
By Tanya Mannes , UNION-TRIBUNE
Monday, August 16, 2010 at 4:27 p.m.
// / AP//
A pending federal law would make it harder for wineries to sell to customers directly through wine clubs or websites. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Local winemakers are worried about a federal bill that could require them to go through distributors instead of selling directly to customers through their wine clubs or websites.
The legislation would hurt San Diego’s emerging “boutique” wineries, said attorney Charles Reidelbach of Higgs, Fletcher, and Mack, a San Diego law firm that represents many wineries and breweries. County supervisors recently decided to allow tasting rooms at wineries in the county’s jurisdiction to boost the fledgling local industry.
“If passed, the CARE Act would take a step back from advances made to secure the ability of smaller wineries and breweries to ship directly to customers,” Reidelbach said. “Further, the bill would limit consumer’s ability to purchase specialty wines and craft brews that are bought directly through websites or wine clubs, and not through retailers.”
The bill pending in the House would allow states more power to regulate alcohol and would require those challenging the rules to prove they violate federal law. It would supersede recent court rulings that struck down limits on alcohol sales across state lines.
The legislation, known as H.R. 5034, is heavily backed by distributors including the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which gave $5,000 in June to Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego. Filner is the only local lawmaker listed as a co-sponsor of the bill. He did not respond to a request for comment Friday. (emphasis mine.)
Trez Gotfredson, owner of Country Cellars in Julian, is the secretary of the San Diego County Vintners Association, which opposes the bill. “We’ve been discussing this in our meetings,” she said. “It’s not a good thing at all; we’re praying that it’s not going to pass.”
Gotfredson sells local beer and wine that she buys direct from the wineries and microbreweries. She would likely have to go through a distributor if the law passes. “I think it would monopolize the industry, having these high-volume distributors in control,” she said.
The San Diego Brewers Guild did not respond to a request for comment through its website.
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